It was 5:30am exactly when the building began shaking. The problem was that this wasn’t a movie. It was my building, and that was yesterday.
There were a few upsides though. First of all, I was awake anyway, so my adrenal system didn’t go haywire from being woken up suddenly, and second of all, it wasn’t an earthquake. This was mechanical.
A loud (very. very. loud.), rhythmic vibration was thrumming through the building, and it wasn’t coming from the street. I tried calling security a couple of blocks away. I got voice mail. Nice, guys. Nice. Fine. It’s loud, it’s vibrating and it’s obviously some kind of mechanical problem. Looks like a job for….well, me, apparently. I grabbed my cell phone (as it contains a camera and a video option, albeit a poor quality one) , put on my sneakers and set forth to find out the source of this terrible noise.
It was much louder in the hallway. It was even louder than that in the stairwell. Oh goody, it’s coming from the roof. Fantastic.
I went up two flights of stairs to find the gentleman who lives in the penthouse apartment standing in the stairwell in his bathrobe, cell phone in hand. Whatever was causing this was doing it *right next to his apartment*. He probably hit the ceiling when it started, and I don’t blame him. There was a recently patched bit of plaster on the wall at the top of the stairs that was not quite dry yet.
By now, the arch/design/engineering people reading this probably already know what the problem was. I did, and it was confirmed when the guy from Penthouse A told me they’d been doing work in the stairwell on Thursday. And the reason this is a DGD post and not merely one for my personal journal(though I’ll likely crosspost it- goodness knows it’s the most interesting thing to have happened in a while) is because the cause of the vibration was something that shows how apartment buildings work that people who are not in the industry usually don’t know.
Anyway, back to the vibration. See, when you live in a building that is over six stories, you have a problem with water pressure. In short, gravity works. It’s difficult to provide adequate water pressure on demand to the upper floors, since you’re fighting gravity to get the water up there in the first place. The solution is to pump water to the roof and store the water there. Gravity can be employed on demand to provide the pressure needed for fun things like showers, and toilet flushing, and being able to do your dishes. Because as I said, gravity works.
Apparently, they’d been doing some kind of work to the pump mechanism. Whatever they did, they didn’t seat it properly and it was probably resting against a steel support in the column with the patched plaster. But it wasn’t secure. When the pump went off, the vibration was transmitted to the steel support, which runs the length of the building. The reason why the vibration began at exactly 5:30am is because the pump is on a timer. It goes off several times a day in order to assure there’s enough water for the upper floors during peak times for water usage (like in the early morning, when most people shower.)
I managed to calm the (understandably frightened and damned pissed) guy in Penthouse A, who thanked me for being the only person to come and check on him (apparently he had the same luck with security and the service department that I did.) I assured him that yes, the noise would stop soon, as soon as the pump ran through its’ cycle, but yeah- the service folks needed to get their asses back up there and open that wall up again. Sure enough, the pump stopped five minutes later. On my way back downstairs, my downstairs neighbor peeked his head into the stairwell to ask me if I knew what had happened. I explained, and assured him that no, the building wasn’t going to come down. 🙂
I suppose I’ll know if they fixed it in about an hour and fifteen minutes, since I was out all day yesterday taking photos for this new furniture project.
Engineering/arch/design knowledge avoids panic. Film at 11. (I actually did take video of this, just because I was trying to get the sound- it was damned loud.)
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